PELLA — It was not the way coach Eric Van Kley would have drawn it up, but the No. 24 ranked Central College wrestling team completed a major comeback to beat Simpson College 23-20 Thursday night in front of a raucous crowd in P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium.
“It was a crazy night all around,” coach Eric Van Kley said. “I’ve always said our crowd at home is worthy more than a few points. Our guys who aren’t wrestling are phenomenal and the other students are great, too. A home wrestling match at Central is an electrifying event.”
Starting at 133 pounds, Simpson powered to a 14-0 lead through the first three matches. It was a second-period fall by 157-pounder Collin Groleau (sophomore, Peru, Ill., La Salle-Peru HS) that shocked some life into the Dutch and made it 14-6.
“We had to get momentum back on our side and Collin did a great job of shifting back in our direction,” Van Kley said. “He showed some pose and got us going.
Usually the first match of a dual, 125-pounder C.J. Pestano (senior, Torrance, Calif.) was the last Central wrestler to take the stage and he did so with a 20-18 deficit. Pestano left no doubt by making 10 takedowns and sealing 23-8 technical fall win. It was the final home dual for the senior, who earned win No. 101 for the career and No. 24 of the season.
“I just wanted to have fun in my last dual in front of this crazy crowd,” Pestano said. “It’s going to be weird to not wrestle here again.”
At 285 pounds, Steven Candley (junior, Arlington, Texas, Martin HS) pulled off a 6-2 win and gave Pestano the chance to finish off the comeback.
“Steven stepped up big,” Van Kley said. “He’s worked hard and had an opportunity to shine. He dug deep and got us a really hard-fought win.”
Nathan Fritz (junior, Sigourney) won 6-3 at 174 pounds and Jeremy Vester (junior, Oak Harbor, Wash.) was given a victory by injury default at 165 pounds.
Saturday’s Last Chance Invitational is the final regular season event of the season for the Dutch. Starting at 10 a.m. inside H.S. Kuyper Fieldhouse, the competition is for freshmen and sophomores only.
Central will then have two weeks off before the NCAA Division III Lower Midwest Regional in Dubuque on February 24-25.
“I think the biggest thing is to trust in our training and the process that got us here,” Van Kley said. “It’s an exciting time of the year. The team has worked tremendously hard and now we want to enjoy it and believe in who we are.”